‘No more curtain calls’

Seanad ChamberThere have been many congratulations for the former Taoiseach and we now have had a month of praise and thanksgiving. Much of it has been deserved, some of it less so, and some of it has been bordering on the nauseating. It is now time to get down to business. I wondered at one stage over the last few weeks whether the former Taoiseach would outdo Luciano Pavarotti, who has the world record of 165 curtain calls in a single performance. The former Taoiseach went close to that record.

While it is a matter for debate whether this is a new Government, it is an opportune moment for us to have that wider discussion. I ask the Leader to arrange for the new Taoiseach to come into this House and to set out his ideas, his proposals and his vision for the post-Celtic tiger Ireland into which we are facing. Before we can get down to the important debates with individual Ministers, I would echo the call to bring in the Taoiseach to the Seanad for that type of debate. We can then grapple with the challenges that exist in the economy, such as the deepening inequalities that have characterised the last decade of growth, the spectacle of 190,000 children at risk of poverty in a country with such enormous wealth held by so few people.

If we had that debate, we could consider the sort of public service we want to have in this country, how we fund it, how we use the taxation system in order to bring about a fairer society, and whether we want one health service for the well off and one for everybody else. I would like to hear the Taoiseach set out his stall on these issues in this House. The Opposition parties are also under a duty to put forward their ideas and their vision, and this would provide an excellent opportunity to do that. I join with my colleagues in congratulating the new Taoiseach, but I hope we get down to business today. I would welcome the opportunity to have such a debate at the earliest possible occasion.